26 April: As many as 50 prisoners at the Berrimah Prison are in lockdown after a “disturbance” forced the highly trained Immediate Action Squad into a rare show of strength.
Department of Corrections spokesman David Harris said prisoners from C Block had been locked in a dining area on Friday while guards conducted a routine search of the cells.
A group of them — between 40 and 50 — then began to shout and bash on the windows, triggering a swift response from the IAS, who subdued the mob and marched the offending prisoners back to their cells.
Mr Harris played down the incident as “very minor” and “not a riot”.
“It was just a group … refusing to follow directions — they just needed to be talked to,” he said. “Cooler heads prevailed and everyone went about their business.”
Justice Minister John Elferink said the matter was still under investigation.
“It was just a bit of push and shove between the fellows from Port Keats,” he said.
The prisoners have been placed in lockdown, which means they are confined to their cells with limited release.
While not as seen as a major incident, Mr Harris conceded the IAS was rarely called upon in Territory prisons.
“It’s not often,” he said. “We don’t have a history of really big issues to deal with in the prisons, but we have to have them (the IAS) on standby.”
The IAS is made up of specially-trained prison guards fitted out with riot gear, but not weapons.
It is assumed the prisoners had taken umbrage to the cell search, but Mr Harris said to the best of his knowledge nothing illegal had been recovered.
C Block houses a total of about 120 prisoners who are on remand.